Why we give up

About 6 months ago, I started figure skating again. This was after a gap of nearly 15 years. I never intended for the gap to be that long, but life got in the way, and I kept delaying going back to the rink.

The truth is, I always had an excuse. ‘Work, the rink being too far away, not having my skates from Dubai.’ When I moved to San Francisco, I couldn’t find an excuse. The skating rink was a block away from the dental school where I was teaching. I had to go!

Skating at a meet in Hong Kong when I was 10

I used to skate professionally until the age of 14. This was a sport I’d taken up when I was about 6 or 7 years old. Some of my closest friends to this day were made on the ice rink! We attended professional meets together and travelled the world. All, as young teenagers and obviously with our parents in tow!

When I got back to skating as an adult, I was initially fearful about tripping and hurting myself. So, I decided to do it the right way and take lessons from a coach. Over a couple classes each month, I have been building confidence on the rink and even been able to attempt doing my favorite step- ‘the spin’!

While I was practicing last week for my upcoming Gamma level test, I witnessed the interaction between another coach and her student. The student was quite young, possibly in her teenage years herself. After every step the student completed, the coach looked at her disapprovingly. The student looked dispirited throughout class.

Although I don’t know for sure what they were communicating to each other, I was taken back to a similar experience with a coach I had had myself. He was a newer coach and one I had had only for a few months towards the very end of my tenure on the rink. I would dread going to class because he would always make me feel like I wasn’t good enough. Due to the constant discouragement, I felt like giving up and never even gave my final exam in Freestyle Level 4. I was getting busier at school, as I was in grade 10 at the time. So, in my mind, I was doing the right thing by focusing on school rather than figure skating. However, looking back I still feel disappointed at the fact that I let a coach influence my decision to leave figure skating- a sport I truly loved.

Sometimes that’s the way life is. We make mistakes and learn from them only years, or in my case, decades later. And while I am grateful to get back to figure skating now, I do wonder what it would have been like had I had my old coach and continued down the professional level for skating. I may not have been a dentist today and might have a skating coach myself! Back on the ice and doing what makes me happy!

The incident also made me think about how many times we let other people, who are seemingly insignificant, make big decisions for us. Sometimes, it is people, and other times it is random incidents. We let them influence us and take us away from things we really want. I can think of so many times a colleague has told me about a teacher in dental school that made them feel like they were not good enough. And that sometimes, in practice, the harsh words of those teachers would repeat in their minds. Sometimes, fear and judgement about what others may think, makes us stop going for what we really want and what feels right to us. This is also a reason, why, when I was teaching at Pacific, I would often err on the side of being too nice to students, then being overly critical. I know what it is like to have a teacher damage my confidence and I would hate to be the reason for it.

It was the fear of what people might think that initially took me away from pursuing a residency this late in my career, as well. I still get a lot of confused looks when I share that I’ll be going back to school for a residency in special-care dentistry. But, here’s the thing. Life is too short to worry about what people think. We have to ultimately take the plunge and make it happen for ourselves. And do what we feel is right for our career, and our life.

I’d like everyone reading this to remember one small, important aspect of life.

Do not let anyone or anything detract you from your goals. Don’t let a terrible coach, an insignificant professor, or a failed case, demoralize you. Keep- yourself and your goals in the highest regard. You can truly do anything you set your mind to.

You know the craziest dream you’ve ever had in your life? It will come true. You just have to work towards it and focus on it relentlessly. Don’t let anyone else get in the way.

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